July 2010 issue

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Exquisite Quito

The thriving capital of Ecuador, with a spectacular blend of both modern and historical features and all key attractions reachable within a few hours; Quito is becoming the hot new study destination in Latin America. Cherrelle Harroo finds out more.

A multicultural city, bejewelled with cathedrals, churches, museums, parklands and cobbled streets, Quito is an extraordinarily attractive study location for international students. Located in north-central Ecuador and over 9,000 feet in the Andes mountains, “the city lies within a beautiful natural Andean setting at the foot of Mt. Pichincha …[and is] strategically situated as a gateway location to the rest of South America,” says Rick Dellemann at the Vida Verde Spanish School.

A number of students are drawn to this vibrant and colourful city because it has a great deal of history, art and culture on display, a spring-like climate throughout the year, friendly locals and a safe environment. Andy Kirby from the Yanapuma Spanish School, says, “It is both a modern and historic city with a rich indigenous blend. Ecuador is also a relatively stable and peaceful country with a good level of security which makes it easier for students arriving in Latin America for the first time to feel at home.” In addition to this, the Spanish spoken in Quito is known to be very clearly pronounced, “so learning Spanish is easier for students to develop their skills for comprehension and speaking”, says Monica Barreno, Director at Galapagos Spanish School.

Language schools in Quito welcome international students and ensure that they have a good time by encouraging involvement in a variety of enjoyable social activities. For example, Yanapuma Spanish School “offers a weekly calendar of free activities to its students that explore Quito and take advantage of local events”. Kirby adds that they “also offer free salsa classes, trips to soccer matches, and organise nights out where we visit clubs together and give students a chance to enjoy the nightlife in Quito”.

At Bipo and Toni’s Academia, Ramiro Segovia, says that their students are welcomed at the airport by a student representative, welcomed by their host family and thirdly, by the school teachers who offer support for learning and students’ safety. Gustavo Moya from Academia de Español Quito (AEQ), says, “Our school’s tourism desk is always ready with all the answers students may need regarding their stay and travel.” At Vida Verde, Ecuadorian cooking lessons are offered and often chosen as an excursion. A familial atmosphere is common throughout language schools in Quito and the aim to maximise the experience of studying their high quality programmes by providing opportunities for students to make friends and practise their Spanish with Ecuadorians, as well as to become a significant part of their host family, is always a priority.

The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its colonial architecture and so lessons can also be learnt from Quito’s offer of magnificently preserved and accessible history. Sightseeing is one of the things that students enjoy most as there is always plenty to see in Quito, and according to Kirby, “much of it is free or only costs a couple of dollars”. For some schools, learning is based around visiting Quito’s best locations. For example, AEQ have a specialised programme known as the ‘active learning programme’ which combines morning classes with afternoon excursions, including visits to theatres etc. Popular attractions are predominantly in and around the historical centre (or ‘historic downtown’) and include the Teleferico cable car (the fourth highest in the world) which rises up to 4,000 metres giving spectacular views of the city and surrounding volcanoes. Awe-inspiring views are also accessible from El Panecillo, which Moya describes as “a cupcake shaped hill in the middle of the Colonial town”, where there are numerous small arts and crafts shops to explore.

Another common attraction is the equatorial line that runs through Quito – also known as ‘The Middle of the World’ – where visitors enjoy taking photographs with one foot on the northern and one foot on the southern hemisphere. Moya also suggests visiting the Museo de la Ciudad – an explanative museum about the city and its history – and Plaza Grande or central square, where the seat of government resides. “[Both] are at the heart of this historic town,” she asserts. Meanwhile, Kirby insists that students visiting Quito should not miss “the magnificent churches of the historical centre with their hectares of gold leaf and intricate carvings, …[particularly] at night” when it is colourfully lit.

Sabrina Schwarz, Admissions Coordinator at Academia Latinoamericana de Español, states, “Besides the incomparable cultural offer, in Quito, international students also find nature, several parks, local markets, and, due to its central location in the country, it’s a great place to discover other regions of Ecuador, such as the Andes, the coast, the tropical rainforest and the Galapagos Islands.” Students in Quito often spend time playing sports or sampling exotic foods being sold in La Carolina Park, and gems such as the Cotopaxi volcano offer a mixture of energetic activities such as “hiking, climbing, horseback riding, canopying or mountain biking”, she adds.

Generally, the city is diverse and its “setting is incomparable”, says Schwarz, adding, “It is located in a valley and surrounded by the Andes, offering fantastic views of green mountains all around, snow peaked volcanoes and a crystal clear blue sky.” Quito offers something for everyone and despite the fact that the city is home to over one million inhabitants, the city is welcoming and consequently, international students are undaunted by its size. Barreno describes studying in Quito as “a cultural reward for a life-time”; among its artistic architectural and natural treasures, the city is vibrant with shopping malls, exhibits and seasonal festivals. María Clara de Wohlermann from Quito Spanish Institute asserts that students “like to dance salsa… [and] taste the wonderful Ecuadorian food”. She concludes, when students leave Ecuador, they take with them “a good knowledge of the language” and they feel they have had “a friendly, beautiful, incredible and unique experience in a country they know they will return to one day”.

Agent viewpoint

“Quito is a great city and it’s easy to get there and easy to get around. The school [we send students to], Academia de Español Quito, specialises in high quality tutor programmes – such as a higher education programme for their teachers to earn masters degrees in teaching Spanish. They also offer Spanish in the jungle on Anaconda Island, Spanish on the coast for a week in their Pacific Spanish programme and their Activa programme is one-on-one and an excellent way to combine Spanish and activities around the city. The climate is great. They have great host families, excellent teaching, many years of experience and a great reputation.”
Vanessa Valero, NRCSA, USA

“Quito, Ecuador is one of our most popular destinations. Students are able to study with one- on-one instruction at an affordable cost in the second largest city in Ecuador. The cost of food and transportation is inexpensive and easily accessible. Quito is known for its strong Inca history in addition to its beautiful Spanish palaces. It has a beautiful crisp climate set among the Andes mountains. Many students also take advantage of travelling to nearby locations such as the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon basin (where students actually study adjacent to a national botanical sanctuary). One of the favourite spots is the visit the Mitad del Mundo (literally the centre of the world). Old Town in Quito is a great place to visit with its many museums. Nightlife in Quito would not be complete without a visit to one of its many peñas.”
Meredith B. Butler, Language Link, USA

“I had the opportunity to travel to Quito, Ecuador last year and I think the main reason why people decide to go there is the rich diversity of the country. As the country is one of the smallest in Latin America you have the possibility to see different landscapes without travelling a lot. From the second highest capital city in the world you are able to go to the west coast within a few hours. Or you can follow the Avenue of Volcanoes and get to rainforest in the Amazonia province. Our participants who have been in Ecuador are also very impressed by the friendly people and their culture.”
Lisa Schwarzien, PractiGo GmbH, Germany

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Britannia Student

English Australia  
MEI Ireland  

Alphe Conferences  

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Carrick Institute
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Global Village 
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Study Group 
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ELS Language
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University of
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